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Enneagram Type 3: The (Sometimes Over) Achiever

Enneagram Type 3s are also known as the “Achiever” of the Enneagram. As the name suggests, Achievers are extremely driven. They’re constantly pushing themselves to meet or surpass the  expectations of those around them, and are capable of doing massive amounts of work to accomplish their objectives. A Type 3’s ultimate ambition is to achieve greatness and to have their work be recognized and admired by the people around them.

Type 3s put a lot of stock into how they’re perceived by others. They have a penchant for the finer things in life, which are identifiable markers of success. They also love to pack their calendars to the brim with social and business engagements so they can stay motivated and productive and be seen doing so. When their focus on their image turns unhealthy, Type 3s can be overly competitive or become workaholics. They can also be prone to putting on a front and repressing their own emotions in order to keep working and achieve their goals.

Below, you’ll find an helpful overview of Enneagram 3 characteristics, along with information on Type 3 variants, wings, and directions of growth and stress. You’ll also learn which other types Achievers are most compatible with, what they need in a job environment, and the identities of some well-known Enneagram 3s.

Key Characteristics

Below, we’ve outlined some of the key traits of Enneagram Type 3s.

Personality Traits

Type 3s are:

  • Ambitious
    • Type 3s put a lot of effort into setting and achieving goals
  • Image-conscious
    • Type 3s will adapt their social image to win the respect of others
  • Status-conscious
    • Type 3s are very motivated by prestige and status
  • Competitive
    • Type 3s do what it takes to win or get to the top
  • Adaptable
    • Type 3s respond quickly to new situation
  • Charismatic
    • Type 3s have magnetic personalities that people are drawn to
  • Influential
    • Type 3s have a contagious energy that motivates others to also perform well


Each Enneagram type can be understood as stemming from a core set of motivations, specific desires and fears that are at the root of that type’s behavior. These desires and fears are inextricably linked, where the desires are the type’s ideal way of being in the world, the fear is that of falling short of that ideal or simply being incapable of meeting it.


In the Enneagram model of self, personality traits can be seen as stemming from a person’s core fear. Each type has an associated core fear, and the traits associated with that type develop through the avoidance of that fear.

The core fear of the Achiever is being worthless and dispensable.


Each Enneagram type has core desires that correspond to and are deeply interconnected with their core fears.

Achievers desire to be valuable, worthy, and admired. They work hard on achievements that invite praise and make them feel seen and valued by those around them.


Enneagram 3s excel at leading and inspiring others. They make friends easily, helped along by their ability to know what to say in every circumstance. Their driven nature is guided by a natural self-confidence that they can hold onto when hard work is required of them. While confident, they’re never smug or self-satisfied – in fact, they continuously strive to improve themselves.


Enneagram 3s are very image-conscious and tend to depend on outward validation for their self-worth. This can easily go too far, resulting in constant overwork and a laser focus on how they’re perceived that leaves the Achiever completely disconnected from their own emotions and needs. At their worst, Type 3s can become overly competitive, strive to feel superior to others around them, and even resort to deceit to conceal errors they believe will reflect poorly on them.

Directions of Growth and Stress

The nine personality types identified within the Enneagram model are not rigid classifications. Your personality will change and evolve and even take on traits from other types in response to changing circumstances. Note that this does not mean that your base type will change! Instead, the Enneagram model suggests that how you react to new situations is informed by your Enneagram type.

In the Enneagram model, each type is connected to two others, which represent that type’s direction of stress and direction of growth.

Enneagram 3 Directions of Growth and Stress

Growth Arrow to Six

When striving for growth, Type 3s “move towards” the direction of Enneagram 6, the Loyalist. Achievers going through periods of self-improvement and feeling comfortable and settled in their lives may naturally adopt some of the positive traits of the Loyalist.

An Enneagram 3 moving in a direction of growth will:

  • Focus on the community and to contributing to society at large.
  • Genuinely desire to inspire and help others succeed.
  • Check in on and honor their own emotions.
  • See themselves as enough and worthy, with or without achievements.

Be aware that an Achiever in a period of growth will still remain a Type 3 at heart, but will be able to channel the positive traits of the Enneagram 6 in their own way.

Stress Arrow to Nine

When put under pressure and responding poorly to stress, Achievers may begin to emulate some of the negative traits of the Enneagram Type 9, the Peacemaker.

An Enneagram 3 moving in a direction of stress may:

  • Engage in people-pleasing to feel like they are enough.
  • Hide their authentic self instead of expressing themselves genuinely.
  • Burn themselves out with overwork.
  • Disengage from others and stall out on unimportant tasks.

Instinctual Variants

Another key concept within the Enneagram model is the three instincts, these being the self-preservation instinct, the sexual instinct, and the social instinct. All three instincts are inherent in every human, but every person prioritizes the three differently, with their main priority being their “dominant” instinct. Understanding how your dominant instinct manifests within your Enneagram type can provide helpful insights into your personality and behavior.

The self-preservation (SP) instinct pertains to our need for personal safety and security.

Self-preservation 3s pour their energy into acquisition and career advancement due to their instinctive need for material stability. They may find it difficult to feel materially secure and work nonstop to make more money than they need.

SP 3s feel most secure when climbing the corporate ladder and achieving their goals. Their achievements must be practical and coincide with what they believe to be the “acceptable” version of themselves.

The social (SO) instinct pertains to our need to be part of a community and to feel like we belong.

For Social 3s, the source of their persistent, striving energy is their desire for social approval and external validation. They need to be acknowledged publicly, given titles, have powerful connections, and be recognized for their achievements, their effort, and their virtues. Without this recognition, they are prone to feeling unworthy.

SO 3s are very good at presenting a side of themselves that others will like. However, this strength can come at the expense of true connections, as SO 3s may struggle to be vulnerable or authentic with others.

The sexual (SX) instinct pertains to our sexuality and our personal relationships.

While Social 3s require praise and validation of themselves from the people around them, Sexual 3s are more concerned with their one-on-one relationships. While still ambitious, SX 3s will focus their energy on supporting the advancement of their partners, friends, and loved ones, as well as on being seen as lovable and desirable.

Being seen as attractive and charismatic is very important for SX 3s. However, this need may lead to a disconnect with their own authentic self, as they prioritize being seen as desirable, becoming conflict avoidant and engaging in people-pleasing behaviors.

Healthy vs. Unhealthy Enneagram 3s

Because people will always change in response to life circumstances, there is no single defined set of behaviors that mark out an Enneagram 3. Instead, Achievers will tend towards different aspects of their personality when in an average state versus when they’re healthier or more unhealthy.

Signs of a Healthy Achiever

  • They pursue their passions rather than putting them off to please others.
  • They remain resilient and confident when faced with setbacks.
  • They support and enable others with their achievements.
  • They prioritize relaxation to avoid burnout.

Signs of an Average Achiever

  • They thrive under pressure but have a tendency towards overwork.
  • They find motivation in the extrinsic rather than the intrinsic value of tasks .
  • They fixate on whether they are living up to the expectations of others.
  • They respond poorly to disagreement or criticism.

Signs of an Unhealthy Achiever

  • They work endlessly without regard for themselves or others while gaining no sense of satisfaction from their efforts.
  • They feel a sense of emptiness and lack the energy and motivation they once had.
  • They believe their efforts will inevitably be in vain and descend into self-destructive behaviors
  • They withdraw from social life and engage in meaningless activities.

Personal Growth Recommendations for Enneagram 3s

  • Be honest with yourself and others. Stay engaged with your own emotions and avoid the urge to oversell yourself. Don’t let your need to impress others lead you astray from your actual goals or get in the way of real connections with others. Being genuine will  always make a bigger impression on people than boasting or inflating your achievements.
  • Invest in your relationships. Having to keep up a perfect façade for other people will deplete all of your energy quickly. You need to be vulnerable sometimes. Make sure you have at least one trusted person that you allow to see through your façade. Being able to confide in someone without worrying about their reaction can be a liberating experience.
  • Taking downtime is part of being productive. With your drive and ambition, you run the risk of exhausting both yourself and those around you. Your commitment to self-improvement and achievement is admirable, but you need to balance work with downtime to keep from burning out and to get to know yourself better.
  • Failure is part of the journey. Not succeeding at something doesn’t make you a failure. Learn to look at setbacks as chances for growth and learning rather than giving up and criticizing yourself. Analyze what went wrong logically. What can you improve upon going forward? What fresh insights can you glean from the results?

Enneagram 3 Wings

The two numbers adjacent to your Enneagram type are known as your “wing” types. While people will display traits from all nine Enneagram types over the course of their life, their wings will especially influence their behavior, with most people leaning more towards one wing than the other. Enneagram 3s will lean either towards their 2 wing, written as 3w2 (3-wing-2) or towards their 4 wing, written as 3w4.

Enneagram 3 Wings - 3w2 3w4

3w2 Traits

At the core of both Types 2 and 3 are their inclinations to socialize, and Achievers with a 2 wing are even more extroverted and equipped with exceptional people skills. Charming and stimulating, 3w2s thrive in social situations, like the spotlight, and are loved by all.

While achievers are naturally competitive, those with a 2 wing might temper that competitiveness with more empathy and consideration. They care about more than just their own success, valuing the relationships they have with others and being giving with their time and resources.

3w4 Traits

Types 3 and 4 both tend to put a premium on beauty, and 3w4s often have a keen eye for fashion and an interest in the arts. 3w4s pride themselves on their appearance and sense of style, so they tend to be very well turned-out.

Although 3s are naturally outgoing, those with a 4 wing often prefer quiet time to focus on their craft, a trait that helps them towards their success. And while 3w4s still value other people’s opinions highly, they don’t go out of their way to win people over but gain satisfaction from achieving their own personal goals.

Enneagram 3 Careers

Enneagram 3s thrive in professional settings that provide plenty of opportunities for their efforts to be recognized and rewarded. They appreciate opportunities for growth and respond well to financial incentives. Success in the workplace is much more likely for a Type 3 if their manager and coworkers encourage their ambition and provide constructive criticism.

Type 3s will find work difficult if they’re faced with negativity from coworkers and supervisors or if their growth is limited. Type 3s can lose confidence in themselves and their abilities when their work is not recognized by those around them, such as if they’re not seeing career advancement or not being acknowledged for their contributions.

Enneagram Type 3s excel in roles such as:

  • Lawyer
  • Politician
  • Doctor
  • Entrepreneur
  • Market Analyst
  • Investment Banker

Enneagram 3 Compatibility With Other Types

Enneagram 3s are most compatible with Enneagram Type 9, the Peacemaker.

Enneagram 3s are very high-achieving, but their preoccupation with appearances can make them less open and genuine. In a relationship between a Type 3 and Type 9, the self-effacing 9 can back the ambitious 3 and, more importantly, accept them for who they are rather than what they can do. This allows the Type 3 to feel secure in being more vulnerable.

Similarly, a Type 3 can assist the optimistic 9 in gaining recognition and a sense of self-worth. 3s encourage 9s to respect themselves more, to place a higher value on themselves, and to put effort into their own growth. And in return, 9s enable 3s to slow down and take pleasure in the little things in life, giving them permission to stop pushing themselves so hard and appreciate life.

Enneagram 3s are least compatible with Enneagram Type 8, the Enthusiast.

While both types are extroverted and highly energetic, a 3-8 pairing can be extremely volatile. Though their shared qualities may initially make the pairing appear to be a fantastic match, Type 3s and Type 8s have strengths and weaknesses in common, and it’s these shared weaknesses that can create potential problems in their relationship.

Both 3s and 8s experience constant pressure to be exceptional and flawless. They may act carefree and cheerful, but their attempts to be different things to different people may mean they end up hurting each other unintentionally due to their busy schedules and lack of communication. If the pairing fails to address the miscommunication, it can quickly result in a backlog of grudges kept hidden until too much damage has been done.

Famous Enneagram Type 3s

Unsurprisingly, many well-known Enneagram 3s are figures in the entertainment industry. Notable Enneagram 3 celebrities include:

  • Arnold Schwarzenegger, Austrian-American Actor
  • Taylor Swift, American Singer-Songwriter
  • David Hume, Scottish Philosopher
  • Michael Jordan, American Professional Basketball Player
  • Oprah Winfrey, American Television Personality and Host


Enneagram 3s are high-achievers motivated primarily by a need to be (and to be seen as) worthy. In the right environment, and when they possess a healthy dose of self-awareness, 3s can be deeply inspiring, helping those around them find success while feeling secure in their own accomplishments.

To be at their best, Enneagram 3s need to understand that they are appreciated for who they are, not for what they have accomplished. They must know that they are a human being, not a human doing. Otherwise, they risk burnout and alienating themselves from the very people they seek validation from.